Capitol Hill chatter this week focused on the impending departure from the Trump administration of two men central to the story of the Russia probes: Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House Counsel Don McGahn.
GOP lawmakers, reportedly thanks to Trump’s lobbying, are dropping their support for keeping Sessions at the helm of the Justice Department. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that the relationship between Trump and Sessions was “beyond repair,” while Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said that he could open up time in the schedule to hold hearings on a replacement.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he believed Sessions should “stay exactly where he is,” but that voice of support is unlikely to be enough to save him. The Attorney General is now expected to leave his post after the midterms.
The same is true for McGahn, who has been with Trump since the first days of the administration and has helped provide a first line of defense on special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. Some reports say he may depart as soon as Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the Supreme Court.
The President and McGahn, who “cooperated extensively” with Mueller’s probe in over 30 hours of testimony, clashed over the prospect of pardoning former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Trump was reportedly weighing bringing in another counsel more amenable to his desire to grant Manafort a pardon.
After Trump confirmed McGahn’s impending departure via tweet, McGahn, who was surprised by the announcement, reportedly said, “Of course it happened this way.”
A Manafort associate who founded a Washington, DC consulting firm with alleged Russia intelligent agent Konstantin Kilimnik was charged Friday with failing to register as a foreign lobbyist; members of Mueller’s team attended his hearing.
Manafort’s own attorneys are lobbying to get his second federal trial moved from Washington, D.C. to Roanoake, Virginia, citing local “bias” against the onetime Trump associate. The start of that trial was bumped back this week; it will now begin on Sept. 24.
Trump and his former attorney Michael Cohen reportedly hatched a plan to purchase decades worth of dirt from the National Enquirer during the 2016 election. It’s unclear if any of the other damaging stories about Trump preserved by the tabloid are playing any role in the Cohen investigation.
After weeks of waffling and sharing his supposed indecision publicly, George Papadopoulos has elected to stand by his plea deal with the Mueller team over lying to the FBI rather than banking on a Trump pardon.
House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) apparently went to London in an unsuccessful effort to seek information from British intelligence agencies about “Steele dossier” author Christopher Steele.
And Trump’s legal team is compiling a “counter-report” to rebut Mueller’s future reports detailing the fruits of his investigation. It’ll be put out on “personal stationary,” Rudy Giuliani says.